Parker to extend instrument operations in future solar fly-bys

The engineering and science team for the Parker Solar Probe have decided they can turn on its science instruments for a longer period during future solar fly-bys, and have now done so for its upcoming third approach.

Parker Solar Probe turned on its four instrument suites on Aug. 16, 2019 — earlier than during its previous two solar encounters, extending the observation period from 11 days to about 35 days.

During the spacecraft’s first two solar encounters, the science instruments were turned on when Parker was about 0.25 AU from the Sun and powered off again at the same distance on the outbound side of the orbit. (One AU, or astronomical unit, is about 93 million miles, the average distance between the Sun and Earth.) For this third solar encounter, the mission team turned on the instruments when the spacecraft was around 0.45 AU from the Sun on the inbound side of its orbit and will turn them off when the spacecraft is about 0.5 AU from the Sun on the outbound side.

This decision will allow them to get more data about the solar wind from farther from the Sun.

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Northrop Grumman leases part of VAB for assembling Omega rocket

Northrop Grumman has become the first private company to lease a bay of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center, where it will its new OmegA rocket.

Northrop Grumman will assemble and test its new OmegA rocket inside the massive facility’s High Bay 2, one of four high bays in the building. … The company also is modifying mobile launcher platform-3 (MLP-3) to serve as the launch vehicle’s assembly and launch platform. Both the VAB and MLP-3 were originally built for the Apollo Program and went on to enable the three-decade Space Shuttle Program.

OmegA’s development is being funded by an $800 million contract with the Air Force.

In many ways, I could ask the exact same question here as I just did in the post below about the Chinese government’s pseudo private launch industry: From an American private enterprise perspective, this Air Force attempt to create a commercial launch industry using government funds but tight government supervision and control is very puzzling. OmegA will be competing directly with other American launch companies that are privately funded, owned, and run by private corporations (though also getting significant government contracts for their already operational products). How the federal government prevents its government agencies (NASA, the Air Force) from putting their thumbs on the scale to favor one over the other I do not understand.

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Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of makng the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

China launches three satellites on new rocket

China today successfully completed the first orbital launch of its privately-funded but government-built smallsat Smart Dragon rocket, putting three smallsats into orbit.

From the Chinese state press:

The rocket, developed by the China Rocket Co. Ltd. affiliated to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALVT), blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 12:11 p.m. (Beijing Time).

The three satellites, respectively developed by three Beijing-based companies, will be used for remote sensing services, communication and Internet of Things.

Different from the carrier rockets of the Long March family, the new Dragon series is developed in a commercial mode to meet the market demand of launching small commercial satellites, said Wang Xiaojun, head of CALVT.

What they mean by “a commercial mode” is that the funding comes from private Chinese investors who hope to make money from the rocket’s launches. However, this is not a private operation by any means, since the rocket is owned and built by a government entity and uses military solid motors.

From an American perspective, this Chinese attempt to create a commercial launch industry using private funds but tight government supervision and control is very puzzling. This government company is now competing directly with other Chinese launch companies that are, at least superficially, owned and run by private corporations (though also supervised closely by the government). How the Chinese government prevents its government agencies from putting their thumbs on the scale to favor one over the other I do not understand.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

12 Russia
12 China
10 SpaceX
6 Europe (Arianespace)
4 India

The U.S leads 17 to 12 over Russia and China in the national rankings.

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Marshall wins Artemis manned Moon lander pork

As expected and despite opposition from some Texas lawmakers, NASA yesterday announced that it has given the bulk of the management of its Artemis manned lunar lander project to the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Marshall will be in charge of two of the contractors who will build what NASA conceives as three components for the lander: the transfer vehicle, the descent module, and the upper ascent stage:

The lunar lander, consisting of three components, also will be launched atop commercial rockets and docked at the Gateway before any astronauts arrive. One component, a sort of carrier craft known as a transfer vehicle, would take the lander from Gateway down to a lower orbit. From there, the lander’s descent module will make a rocket-powered landing on the moon, initially carrying two astronauts.

The astronauts would ride down to the surface in the pressurized cabin of an upper ascent stage. That stage will use the descent module as a launching pad, much like the Apollo astronauts did 50 years ago, to climb back up to the transfer vehicle and then on to Gateway.

Marshall will supervise construction of the transfer vehicle and the descent module, while the Johnson Space Center in Texas will manage construction of the upper ascent stage.

Does no one in NASA or the Trump administration see the stupidity of this? It is as if Ford decided that the interior and exterior sections of its cars will be assembled in two different factories, and only combined after they are assembled. The logistics of making sure they will fit and work together during final assembly could only increase costs, delay assembly, and almost guarantee engineering issues. No intelligently run business would do such a thing.

Government however is not an intelligently run business. It is run by politicians, whom we the public have not held to any kind of quality standard for the past half century. Thus, NASA is forced to spread this pork around because politicians in Alabama (Senator Richard Shelby) and Texas (Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn) demand it do so.

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Genesis cover

Want to learn the inside story of the Apollo lunar landing, now celebrating its 50th anniversary? Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 
The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

A directory of skeptical climate websites

Link here. The list is very comprehensive, including many of the sites I check frequently. Note too that many of these sites are very rigorous in the analysis of data, often far more rigorous than many modern peer-reviewed climate papers I read.

As they are skeptical, so should you be. Don’t take anything said at these sites at face value, but don’t dismiss what they say outright either. Pay attention, because you might find that you will become more discerning in the future when you are bombarded with chicken-little pronouncements from the global warming activist crowd.

One quote from the article bears some contemplating:

Virtually all powerful vested interests in the Western hemisphere recognize climate change alarm as leverage to impose self-serving policies and garner higher profits. The reasons for this are myriad. [The article then lists sixteen such reasons, all well known and well documented.]

Taken individually, each of these reasons—and this list undoubtedly omits additional special interests that benefit from climate change alarm—represent a profound shift in public policy. Each of them represents investments skewing away from optimal returns and instead towards returns that favor a politically entitled group. The overall impact of all of them is regressive, increasing the cost-of-living for the most economically vulnerable populations.

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Leaving Earth cover

In March I obtained from my former publisher the last 30 copies of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. I quickly sold 10, and with only 20 left in stock I am raising the price. To get your own autographed copy of this rare collector's item please send a $75 check (which includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to
 

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652
 

I will likely raise the price again when only ten books are left, so buy them now at this price while you still can!


  Also available as an inexpensive ebook!
 

Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, is now available as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 


Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Tlaib lies about desire to visit grandmother in West Bank

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaid (D-Michigan), banned by the Israeli government from making a political trip to visit Israel and the West Bank, then wrote a private letter to Israel interior minister Aryeh Deri, asking for permission to just go to the West Bank to visit her aged grandmother.

In a letter obtained by CNN, Deri revealed Tlaib had requested and was granted permission to enter the West Bank to visit her grandmother, who is 90 years old. “This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit,” the Michigan Democrat wrote to Deri. [emphasis mine]

As soon as the interior minister gave her this permission, Tlaib then announced publicly today that she would not accept this offer:

“Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in–fighting against racism, oppression & injustice,”

As the interior minister noted correctly today, “I agreed to this humanitarian request, but it turns out that it was just a provocation aimed at embarrassing Israel.”

Tlaib is a dishonest liar who hates Israel and all Jews. She allies herself with the worst Jew-hating Palestinians who want to wipe Israel out and kill all the Jews that live there. It thus no surprise that Israel banned her political visit. (And if you doubt the anti-Semitism of Tlaib and her partner Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), read this story: Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib Partnered with Vicious Anti-Semites to Plan Their Trip to Israel.)

Yet, that Israel still was willing to let her come, on the condition it was only to visit her grandmother, says a great deal about Israel itself.

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Protest filed against NASA contract awards for unmanned lunar landers

Deep Space Systems, one of the private companies that bid for a NASA contract to build a private lunar lander to carry NASA instruments to the moon, and did not get the contract, has filed a protest against that decision.

I found out about this through my industry sources. I have no further information about the protest itself.

The timeline however is intriguing. The contracts were awarded to three different companies on May 31, 2019. Deep Space Systems’ protest was filed on June 24, 2019.

On July 30, 2019 one of contract winners, Orbit Beyond, backed out of the deal. Whether the protest or Orbit Beyond’s exit are related is at present unknown, though I wonder if they might be connected.

Either way, the question now arises: Who will replace Orbit Beyond? I also wonder if this protest gives Deep Space Systems an advantage for getting that replacement contract. This last thought is pure speculation and very unlikely. There are several other companies that are more well known and might be better qualified, and it would be inappropriate for NASA to allow its decision-making process to be pressured because of this protest.

Regardless, stay tuned for more information. This story is going to get more interesting.

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When told Clinton’s missing classified emails were sent to gmail, FBI was uninterested

But Russia! A new Senate report has revealed that the computer specialist hired by Hillary Clinton to wipe her private server had copied and sent all her missing classified emails to an ordinary gmail account, and when this illegal fact was revealed to fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, in charge of the investigation, Strzok had no interest in following up.

Virtually every single one of Hillary Clinton’s emails were sent, potentially secretly, to a cryptically named Gmail address, according to a new Senate report.

The finding, which has not been previously reported, means that Clinton’s emails, including classified ones and ones which were later deleted, likely existed on Google’s U.S.-based servers. The FBI said in the report that it knew this — and of the suspicious explanation for it — but did not alert other intelligence agencies or the public, according to the report.

The FBI says that the suspicious Gmail address was set up by an IT aide, Paul Combetta, who worked for a company that managed Clinton’s server. Combetta is the same IT aide who used BleachBit to permanently erase copies of Clinton’s emails after they were subpoenaed by the House, misled the FBI about it, and was given immunity from prosecution, all while asking for basic computing advice on Reddit.

This story confirms several blatantly obvious facts, as well as reveals some new ones about the partisan agenda of the FBI.

First, we must underline again the very obvious fact that Hillary Clinton had broken the law by using a private email server. There is no question about this. If she was brought to trial on this charge the evidence would have her found guilty in a nanosecond.

Second, Peter Strzok’s disinterest in the facts against her, and the support he got at the time from his superiors, provides more proof of the FBI’s pro-Democrat partisanship and its willingness to provide cover for Clinton, for political reasons. The FBI at the end of the Obama administration was entirely corrupt, and willing to be weaponized to help Democrats (and Clinton) win elections. After Trump won it then became weaponized to try to overturn that election.

Third, this story strongly implies that those missing emails, more than thirty thousand, might very well be recoverable. They were sent to Google, and Google is notorious for keeping material it isn’t supposed to keep. Moreover, the report appears to confirm earlier news reports that Clinton’s unsecured emails had been captured by outside hackers tied to China, which means that China probably has them also.

In other words, Trump’s joke asking the Russians to provide them to us was wrong. He should have been asking the Chinese.

Jokes aside, this evidence proves that many people from the Obama administration should be prosecuted for a variety of crimes, the worst of which was an effort to interfere with a legal and constitutional election. Whether that happens remains very doubtful in my mind, considering how much illegality Democratic politicians have gotten away with in recent years.

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The Philippines creates its own space agency

The new colonial movement: Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, today signed a new law creating that country’s own space agency.

According to the law, the Philippine Space Policy focuses on six key development areas: national security and development, hazard management, climate studies, space research and development, space industry capacity building, and space education and awareness.

In an interview with ANC News, Marciano said that research facilities will be built in the upcoming development New Clark City in Pampanga province. Under the Philippine Space Development Fund, approximately $190 million will be dedicated to the development of PhilSA across five years.

In reading the law itself, it appears that this is mostly a governmental power play, taking over supervision of any space-related industries while justifying some pork and bureaucracy.

The Philippines wants to compete for the future resources of space, but like India, UAE, and most other third world nations they are copying the worst aspects of the model created by the U.S. in the 1960s: a government-run program that designs and controls everything. This can work for awhile, assuming your society and government is not very corrupt (which was the case initially with NASA in the U.S.). In the end however the dry rot sets in, and the whole thing becomes a fake government jobs program, accomplishing relatively little for the money spent.

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Texas and Alabama fight over space pork

Turf war: Several powerful Texas lawmakers announced yesterday their opposition to NASA’s decision to give the lead management for the next lunar lander to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

The question is which Center will manage development of the landers, a plum assignment. NASA plans to procure them through public-private partnerships rather than traditional contracts. The actual design will be determined by whatever companies win the contracts, but NASA’s concept is for a trilogy of vehicles: a transfer vehicle to take the crew from the Gateway to a lower lunar orbit, then a descent vehicle to take them to the surface and an ascent vehicle to return them to Gateway.

…According to Ars Technica, … NASA is assigning overall responsibility for the lunar lander program to Marshall, which will also oversee acquisition of the transfer and descent vehicles. JSC will oversee the ascent vehicle.

In a letter to Bridenstine today, Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and Rep. Brian Babin, all Republicans, expressed surprise and asked Bridenstine to reconsider. They argue that JSC should be in charge of the entire program, not just one of the three vehicles. Marshall’s expertise is in rocketry while JSC is “ground zero for human space exploration.”

They also disagree with splitting the work between two Centers, “an unnecessary and counterproductive departure from the unquestionable success” of the lander for the Apollo program.

This fight is not over who will actually build anything, but how to distribute the pork. In truth, the NASA agency that does this “management” does almost nothing. It is the contractor that builds the spacecraft. You could condense the management into a team of less two dozen (and that’s probably high). Instead, NASA and these politicians use the contractors to justify the existence of whole departments and hundreds of employees and large facilities, all of which are mostly irrelevant, especially if the Trump administration is serious about letting private industry do the job.

Worse, this fight — and NASA’s need to make these politicians happy — is forcing the agency to turn the work once again into a Frankenstein monster, distributing responsibility in absurd ways. I guarantee that in the end the management will not all go to Texas, meaning that the management of the different contractors will be split to different agencies, making for a very inefficient and badly managed program.

The result is going to be, as always, delays, cost overruns, bad designs, a lot of wasted money, and little accomplished.

I want to make special note of Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in this affair. He ran for president as a new conservative, out to drain the swamp of Washington. Now, as senator, he is increasingly becoming captured by that swamp, participating in all the same corruption he railed against during his presidential run.

If he was really serious about draining the swamp, he would be pushing to trim NASA’s management, both in Alabama and in Texas. Instead he is fighting to build it up.

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Fascist and Democratic-controlled California

Two stories yesterday suggested that there might be hope that a revolt might be brewing in California against the fascist Democratic one-party rule that presently dominates the state:

In the first story, a Republican defeated a leftist Democratic — who favored the socialist New Green Deal put forth by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) — for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council.

In the second story it appears that Trump is actually raising more money in California than most of the Democratic candidates for president, and he is doing it with mostly small donations.

I wouldn’t get your hopes up. In Los Angeles the victor won but only narrowly. As for California’s campaign donations, Trump’s totals ($3.2 million) pale in comparison to the more than $26 million Californians have donated to all the Democratic candidates total.

Meanwhile, the state’s Department of Education has accepted an anti-Semitic and ethnic studies curriculum fashioned by academics and politicians blatantly hostile to both Israel and Jews.

The proposed curriculum section on “Arab American Studies Course Outline” contains a number of passages concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as “Direct Action Front for Palestine and Black Lives Matter,” “Call to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel” and “Comparative Border Studies: Palestine and Mexico.” It also includes studying national figures such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the late Columbia University professor Edward Said, Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour, the late radio personality Casey Kasem, actress Alia Shawkat and the late White House correspondent Helen Thomas—all of whom are associated with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, and in the case of the congresswomen, a push to enact legislation punishing Israel.

As for the Holocaust and past oppression against Jews, the curriculum considers these irrelevant, and leaves them out completely.

Nor is this the only example of California’s growing totalitarian culture. In 2018 the one-party Democratic legislature passed a law that requires
» Read more

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Israel to block entry to Muslim anti-Israeli Congresswomen

The Netanyahu Israeli government today announced that it will not allow Muslim congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) to enter their country because of their anti-Israeli boycott stances.

“As a vibrant and free democracy, Israel is open to any critic and criticism, with one exception,” Netanyahu said. “Israel’s law prohibits the entry of people who call and operate to boycott Israel, as is the case with other democracies that prevent the entry of people whose perception harms the country. “The same is true of the US towards an Israeli Knesset and other public figures in the world.”Congressmen Talib and Omar are leading activists in promoting boycott legislation against Israel in the US Congress. Only a few days ago, we received their visitation plan, and it became clear that they were planning a campaign whose sole purpose was to strengthen the boycott and negate Israel’s legitimacy.”

That both congresswomen are anti-Semites might also have been a factor in this decision.

Recognize this: Democrat politicians can spout ugly lies as much as they want (“All Trump voters are white supremacists!”), they can act to silence all opposition, they can even threaten the lives of anyone who disagrees with them, but should even one conservative dare, dare, to fight back it is considered behavior worse than Hitler.

Bah. I say good for Netanyahu and the Israelis. Tell these bigots to go jump in a lake. Let them scream and yell and throw tantrums. It will only better reveal how hateful these congresswomen really are.

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Dream Chaser to launch on ULA’s Vulcan rocket

Capialism in space: Sierra Nevada today announced that it will use ULA’s Vulcan rocket for the six unmanned cargo flights of Dream Chaser to ISS beginning in 2021.

Sierra Nevada engineers and the company’s owners, Fatih and Eren Ozmen, considered boosters built in Japan, Europe and by SpaceX and Blue Origin. But they ultimately selected United Launch Alliance, they said, based on a competitive — but undisclosed — cost, the Vulcan’s capabilities, ULA’s unblemished launch record and a long-standing working relationship.

While the six space station resupply missions are baselined to fly on the Vulcan, with ULA’s Atlas 5 available as a backup, CEO Fatih Ozmen said the company is holding open the option of launching Dream Chasers commercially on other rockets if demand develops. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted text is key. They are putting ULA on notice. Deliver at a competitive price, and on time, or we will exercise our option to go elsewhere.

At the same time, this really isn’t news. The company picked ULA for its first two Dream Chaser cargo flights back in 2017.

Meanwhile, I would like to see some concrete progress from Sierra Nevada. They got their cargo development contract from NASA in January 2016, almost four years ago, and since then not much has seemed to happen.

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French solar road a total failure

The first French attempt to build a road that had solar panels embedded in it to produce power has turned out to be a total failure, after only two years.

Despite the hype surrounding solar roads, two years after this one was introduced as a trial, the project has turned out to be a colossal failure — it’s neither efficient nor profitable, according to a report by Le Monde.

The unfortunate truth is that this road is in such a poor state, it isn’t even worth repairing. Last May, a 100-meter stretch had deteriorated to such a state that it had to be demolished. According to Le Monde’s report, various components of the road don’t fit properly — panels have come loose and some of the solar panels have broken into fragments.

On top of the damage and poor wear of the road, the Normandy solar track also failed to fulfill its energy-production goals. The original aim was to produce 790 kWh each day, a quantity that could illuminate a population of between 3,000 and 5,000 inhabitants. But the rate produced stands at only about 50% of the original predicted estimates.

The article notes that a 230-foot-long Dutch solar bicycle path has been more successful, meeting its energy goals. It also has not deteriorated. I suspect that both results are because it is being used by bicycles and pedestrians, not cars.

What always bothers me about these projects is not their sincere good intentions, but the unwillingness of their promoters to honestly assess the final results, good or bad. They laud the project’s good intentions as if that is all that matters, and rip into anyone who questions the practicality of the project. When the project fails these same promoters, usually politicians, disappear into the darkness, ignoring the bad result as they promote some new pie-in-the-sky proposal.

In this context I am especially reminded of Democratic politicians who loved Venezuela’s socialist experiment, until it went bankrupt as every socialist experiment always does.

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A review of Glenn Reynolds’ The Social Media Upheaval:
A Modern Call for Freedom

We have a free speech problem in America, and it isn’t because our government is trying to restrict our speech.

The problem exists because almost all our speech today is fed through a tiny handful of giant social media outlets, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter, all of whom seem dominated by leftists and partisan Democratic Party ideaology.

Only last week we saw a perfect example of this problem. A mob of protesters had gathered outside the private home of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) because he refused to acquiesce meekly to draconian new gun control laws.

Several protesters shouted threatening obscenities against McConnell and his wife, with the leader of the local Kentucky chapter of Black Lives Matter, Chanelle Helm, screaming for someone to “just stab the mother-%#$&!&/!”

McConnell’s campaign office then followed the next day with the following tweet:

Last night, an angry left-wing mob of Amy McGrath supporters stormed Senator McConnell’s Louisville home screaming obscenities and hoping someone would “just stab the mother****** in the heart.”

The tweet then linked to a video showing this mob’s violent chants and death threats.

Twitter’s response? It suspended McConnell’s account, even though he threatened no one and merely wanted to highlight the vicious ugliness of his opponents. Meanwhile the tech giant continued to allow direct statements of violence against the right by many leftists, including one thread dubbed “#MassacreMitch,” with no consequences.

Only after the Republican Party threatened to pull all of its advertising from Twitter did that social media giant finally back down and reinstate the McConnell account, though it added a warning tag to the video.

Twitter, like Google and Facebook, has decided to take sides in the political battles that this country is now undergoing. And with their almost godlike total power over internet access, these tech giants are in a position to very effectively censor any opposition to their political goals.

So what do we do? In an effort to make an intelligent stab at this issue, Glenn Reynolds, law professor at the University of Tennessee and the manager of the internet site Instapundit, has recently written a book on the subject, The Social Media Upheaval (Encounter Books 2019). As the book’s Amazon page notes,
» Read more

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Juno finds Jupiter’s core more extended and less dense than predicted

My headline above focuses on the real story here, that Juno has found that Jupiter’s solid core is more fuzzy and extended.

Unfortunately, the press release instead focuses on one theory, based on computer models, that might explain this discovery.

The research team ran thousands of computer simulations and found that a fast-growing Jupiter can have perturbed the orbits of nearby “planetary embryos,” protoplanets that were in the early stages of planet formation.

Liu said the calculations included estimates of the probability of collisions under different scenarios and distribution of impact angles. In all cases, Liu and colleagues found there was at least a 40% chance that Jupiter would swallow a planetary embryo within its first few million years. In addition, Jupiter mass-produced “strong gravitational focusing” that made head-on collisions more common than grazing ones.

Isella said the collision scenario became even more compelling after Liu ran 3D computer models that showed how a collision would affect Jupiter’s core. “Because it’s dense, and it comes in with a lot of energy, the impactor would be like a bullet that goes through the atmosphere and hits the core head-on,” Isella said. “Before impact, you have a very dense core, surrounded by atmosphere. The head-on impact spreads things out, diluting the core.”

This theory is all well and good, but we mustn’t take it too seriously. It relies entirely on computer models, and carries with it enormous assumptions about the early solar system that are as yet unproven.

That Jupiter’s core however is fuzzy and extended however is quite fascinating, highlighting once again how little we know about the universe.

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Hong Kong airport reopens as protesters retreat

It appears the actions by Chinese riot police yesterday has caused the airport protesters in Hong Kong to back off and allow the airport to reopen.

Most of the protesters left the airport Tuesday after riot police tried to enter the terminal, fighting with demonstrators who barricaded entrances with luggage carts. The brief clash led to several injuries.

The violence included protesters beating up at least two men they suspected of being undercover Chinese agents. Airport security appeared unable to control the crowd, and paramedics later took both men away. Police have acknowledged using “decoy” officers, and some protesters over the weekend were seen being arrested by men dressed like demonstrators — in black and wearing face masks.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, identified one of the men as a journalist at the nationalistic Chinese tabloid. “Fu Guohao, reporter of GT website is being seized by demonstrators at HK airport,” Hu wrote on his Twitter account. “I affirm this man being tied in this video is the reporter himself. He has no other task except for reporting.”

The protesters apologized that some of them had become “easily agitated and overreacted.” On posters, the demonstrators said they have been “riddled with paranoia and rage” after discovering undercover police officers in their ranks.

Meanwhile the article describes other clashes elsewhere in Hong Kong. The conflict in Hong Kong does not appear to be over, by any means.

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Whistleblower of Google anti-right bias goes public after being threatened by Google

Reason #3,427,934 for not using Google: The whistleblower who has given more than 900 Google documents to both Project Veritas and the Justice Department demonstrating the tech giant’s anti-right bias and its attempt to influence future elections has gone public after being threatened by Google.

Project Veritas has released hundreds of internal Google documents leaked by Vorhies. Among those documents is a file called “news black list site for google now.” The document, according to Vorhies, is a “black list,” which restricts certain websites from appearing on news feeds for an Android Google product. The list includes conservative and progressive websites, such as newsbusters.org and mediamatters.org. The document says that some sites are listed with or because of a “high user block rate.”

One document shows how Google is ranking various established news sites, routinely favoring left-leaning news sites — including the Russian government’s RT news site — over more conservative media.

Meanwhile, once Google found out what the whistleblower was doing it called the police on him, claiming he was “unwell.”

After having been identified by an anonymous account (which Vorhies believes belongs to a Google employee,) on social media as a “leaker,” Vorhies was approached by law enforcement at his residence in California. According to Vorhies, San Francisco police received a call from Google which prompted a “wellness check.”

Vorhies described the incident to Project Veritas: “They got inside the gate, the police, and they started banging on my door… And so the police decided that they were going to call in additional forces. They called in the FBI, they called in the SWAT team. And they called in a bomb squad. … T]his is a large way in which [Google tries to] intimidate their employees that go rogue on the company…”

There are other search engines, such as DuckDuckGo and Yippy. Use them. There are other email services. Get off of gmail. The more the market supports Google competitors the more likely the company will reform its ways. At a minimum its power will be reduced.

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Goddard engineers complete third robotic refueling test on ISS

Goddard engineers have successfully completed their third robotic refueling test on ISS, using the Canadian dual robot arm Dextre.

The operation were controlled from Goddard, using a variety of robots to view, inspect, and complete the operations remotely. The goal is to demonstrate robotic engineering that can later be used to repair and service a variety of already orbiting satellites.

One detailed mentioned at the very end of the article I thought very significant and did not involve robotic refueling: It appears this project also

…successfully stored liquid methane for four months with zero boil off, demonstrating a system which will dramatically lower fluid loss and eliminate the need for oversized tanks and extra propellant.

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Jupiter’s changing Great Red Spot, as seen by Juno

Montage of Jupiter's Great Red Spot since 2017
Click for full image.

Citizen scientist Björn Jónsson has compiled the montage to the right, reduced to post here, of the five times Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (GRS) was imaged by Juno during its repeated orbital fly-bys.

The mosaics show how the GRS and nearby areas have changed over the course of the Juno mission. The mosaics cover planetographic latitudes 4.7 to 38 degrees south.

The resolution of the source data is highly variable and this can be seen in some of the mosaics. The viewing geometry also varies a lot. Some of the images were obtained almost directly above the GRS (in particular some of the perijove 7 images) whereas other images were obtained at an oblique viewing angle (in particular the perijove 17 images).

These are approximately true color/contrast mosaics but there may be some inaccuracies in areas where the original images were obtained at a highly oblique angle. The contrast is also lower in these areas.

Some of the changes are remarkable, considering the short time involved. For example, note the appearance of the large white storm below the Spot in the third image, taken in December 2018. It wasn’t there in April 2018, and was gone by Feburary 2019. This doesn’t mean it had dissipated. Instead, the storm is in a different band which moves at a different speed than the band that the Spot is in. It has thus simply moved away.

This movement is even more remarkable when we remember that the Great Red Spot is about the width of the Earth.

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SpaceX gets 2nd boat to catch rocket fairings

Capitalism in space: It appears, from a Elon Musk tweet, that SpaceX has obtained a second boat to catch its rocket fairings for reuse.

Based on previous comments by Musk, the company is now on the verge of recovering and reusing about 70% of its Falcon 9 rockets during each launch. I’d say that’s pretty good, especially considering industry rocket experts have been saying for half a century that none of this was even possible or practical.

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Chandrayaan-2 successfully puts itself in route to the Moon

Chandrayaan-2 today successfully completed its last Earth perigee burn, raising its orbital apogee so that it will enter the Moon’s gravitational sphere of influence on August 20th.

Chandrayaan-2 will approach Moon on August 20, 2019 and the spacecraft’s liquid engine will be fired again to insert the spacecraft into a lunar orbit. Following this, there will be further four orbit maneuvers to make the spacecraft enter into its final orbit passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 100 km from the Moon’s surface.

…Subsequently, Vikram lander will separate from the orbiter on September 02, 2019. Two orbit maneuvers will be performed on the lander before the initiation of powered descent to make a soft landing on the lunar surface on September 07, 2019.

Vikram will be doing the hardest part, the landing.

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Arecibo gets $12.3 million NSF grant

The National Science Foundation has awarded the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rica a $12.3 million grant to pay for needed repairs and upgrades following the hurricane damage from 2017.

The money will pay for the following work:

  • Repairing one of the suspension cables holding the primary telescope platform, ensuring long-term structural integrity of one of the main structural elements of the telescope.
  • Recalibrating the primary reflector, which will restore the observatory’s sensitivity at higher frequencies.
  • Aligning the Gregorian Reflector, improving current calibration and pointing.
  • Installing a new control system for S band radar, which is part of the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • Replacing the modulator on the 430 MHz transmitter, increasing consistency of power output and data quality.
  • Improving the telescope’s pointing controls and data tracking systems.

Most of this looks to be very basic maintenance, which suggests the telescope is still very starved for funds.

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Riot police attack Hong Kong airport protesters

Riot police today attacked the Hong Kong airport protesters, storming into their midst with batons and pepper spray.

CNN International reported, following the police operation that reporters witnessed at least four arrests and that officers appeared to be targeting specific people. To get through the protesters, police used pepper spray and batons to push back the crowd. According to an official statement from Hong Kong police, airport officials requested that the riot officers enter the airport to rescue a man who protesters had apprehended and accused of being an undercover police officer. The South China Morning Post also reported that the airport received a court injunction requesting police remove the protesters from the premises, though Hong Kong police did not issue an official statement to that effect and officers left without clearing out every protester.

Pro-democracy protesters shut down the airport Tuesday for the second day in a row, forcing administrators to cancel all flights, in a bid to get the China-controlled Hong Kong government to listen to their demands. Some protesters appeared to panic and target others suspected of working for the communist government after officials admitted this weekend that officers had dressed up as protesters to infiltrate the marches.

So far this attack today does not appear to be an effort to shut the protest down with violence. It appears that after extracting two men, possibly pro-China reporters, the police retreated, though the authorities are now limiting access to the airport, probably with the goal of starving the protest with a lack of new supporters.

A very sad messy situation. The Chinese want to impose its tyranny on Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s citizens want to remain free. The result are street protests that can only turn violent, one way or the other, because China’s government is very unlikely to back down.

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